Friday, June 23, 2017

The GI Bill—The Steroids that Bulked Up the White Middle Class

President Franklin Roosevelt passes a pen used in signing the GI Bill in 1944


On June 22, 1944 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill of Rights.  Barring Social Security it was the most successful social program in American history.  It set the stage for the long economic boom of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s and the rapid ascendency of the middle class by forestalling an immediate post-War crisis, fueling an unprecedented housing boom, and by providing American industry and government with a highly educated workforce.  Getting that result was not easy.
In 1944 the end of World War II was in sight even if more than a year of bloody conflict still lay ahead.  That of course was good news.  But it also kept a lot of folks up with night sweats.  What would happen when the largest mobilization in history—millions of armed service members, mostly men—came to an end.  Battle hardened veterans would be dumped into an economy that would be naturally rapidly contracting as the war production boom came wound down.  Men with no skills beyond aiming an M-1 or swabbing a deck would be thrown into competition for scarce jobs with workers who had mastered all sorts of production skills in the defense plants.  Everyone expected a post-war recession; it was just a matter of how severe.  Some fretted if could relapse in the Depression that only really ended when war production began to ramp up in 1939.
Similar conditions had led to the rise of fascism and Communism in Europe after World War I and huge domestic turmoil in the US that included mass strike waves, race riots, and the great Red Scare crackdown that threatened basic Constitutional and Civil Rights.  
Meanwhile the demobilizing troops—draftees and volunteers alike had been vaguely promised that their years of sacrifice would be honored and rewarded and that they would somehow be “taken care of.”  Conservatives in Congress were already making noises against “undeserved giveaways” and expenditures that would get in the way of deep cuts to high wartime taxes on the wealthy.  
The specter of the Bonus March, which was violently suppressed by the Army under Douglas MacArthur, and possible post war chaos or rebellion haunted the lawmakers who worked on the GI Bill.
The historic models were not good.  After the Civil War a stingy Congress was parsimonious in handing out pensions and even the politically powerful Grand Army of the Republic was frustrated with trying to loosen Congressional purse strings as their membership aged. As a result many veterans joined the labor movement during the decades of open class war of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  They burned down rail yards during the Great Railway Strike of 1877 and were the backbone of Coxey’s Army when it marched on Washington in 1894.  After the Great War Congress sought to buy time by promising a Bonus payment to Veterans in 1945.  But when the Great Depression hit sending unemployment soaring thousands joined the Bonus March on Washington that the Hoover administration was terrified signaled a revolution.  The Bonus March was brutally dispersed by the Army under the command of General Douglas MacArthur.   No one wanted a replay of that, either.
In the White House President Roosevelt and his New Deal holdover staff began to put together a relatively modest package of benefits fearing Congressional Republican united opposition.  The bill Roosevelt proposed would have been means tested—only poor veterans would be eligible for most of the benefits and education grants for four years of college would only go to those who got top scores on a written test. 
The leaders of the two most powerful veteran’s organizations, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) with millions of members, plenty of political clout, and the prospect of enrolling waves of new GIs had other ideas.   Harry W. Colmery, a liberal Democrat and a former National Commander of the American Legion—yes, children, such persons once existed—sketched an early draft proposal for a bill at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.  The then current Commander Warren Atherton, a Republican lawyer, helped with the final drafts.
With the backing of both Veterans organization he quickly gained the support of Sen. Ernest McFarland (D-Ariz.) as the principle sponsor in the Upper Chamber.  He got some bi-partisan support, especially Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts who was the Republican Chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  The bill was introduced in January 1944 and despite being sweepingly more generous gained the support of the President.  With the Legion and VFW pulling out all stops on pressuring Congress and the hastily organized support of GI families, especially their wives, the Bill rushed through Congress and was adopted by a comfortable margin in the Democratic Senate and the Republican held House.  Only the most curmudgeonly of conservatives groused, and they did so discretely.
An Army Paratrooper poses with a poster promoting the new GI Bill.
The main provisions of the GI Bill which would reshape American society were:
·       Dedicated payments of tuition and living expenses to attend high school, college or vocational/technical school.
·       Low-cost home mortgages.
·       Low-interest loans to start a business.
·       52 weeks of unemployment compensation.
To be eligible a veteran must have been on active duty during the war years for at least 90 days and had not been dishonorably discharged.  Combat was not a requirement. All veterans including women and minorities—the most controversial component of the legislation—were eligible.
The most glaring omission was those who served in the Merchant Marine, although they had been considered military personnel in times of war in under the Merchant Marine Act of 1936.  This despite the fact that Merchant Marine suffered higher losses in combat by percentage than any of the recognized Armed Services.  At the signing ceremony Roosevelt urged Congress to act to rectify the omission.  They never did. 
Although Blacks and other minorities were technically eligible for full benefits, custom, political expediency, and Federal timidity conspired to deny many their rights under the program.  Just as many New Deal programs had done before, administration of the benefits were left to local, White officials and a tacit policy of deferring to local custom” many Blacks were shut out, especially but not exclusively in the Jim Crow South.  Many of those not directly turned down were discouraged from doing so and many were never informed of their rights by the outreach programs of the Veterans’ Administration and the Veterans’ organizations.  Most affected was the home loan program because there was no requirement for banks to serve Black borrowers or developers to sell to them.  Of the first 67,000 mortgages insured by the G.I. Bill, fewer than 100 were taken out by non-whites, virtually universal exclusion.
A Black NCO explains GI benefits to his unit of truck drivers.  In reality most Blacks found it difficult or impossible to fully claim their benefits due to custom, Jim Crow laws, and openly bigoted local administrators.  Being locked out would have devastating, multi-generational consequences.
Vital education benefits were also impacted.  Most Colleges and Universities still excluded Blacks or admitted them only in small numbers under strict quota systems.  That shunted most potential student off to trade schools, including many fly-by-night operations set up just to harvest GI Bill benefits or to the limited number of historically black colleges which were quickly overwhelmed.  And, once again, local official found ways to dispute payments to those schools.  Only one fifth of the 100,000 blacks who had applied for educational benefits had registered in college by 1946 and the hard pressed Black schools had been forced to turn away 20,000 eligible vets for lack of space for them.  And in most of the South, it was virtually impossible for Blacks to get their unemployment benefits under the program.
This has had a generational effect as previously poor or working class Whites were lifted into the Middle Class giving their children and grandchildren advantages not available to the offspring and descendents of Black vets.  It is one of the most insidious and invisible elements of White privilege that the beneficiaries never even think about.
Despite these failures, the GI Bill was an enormous success for its favored beneficiaries and for the economy as a whole.
The New American Dream--a house in the suburbs made possible for many by the GI Bill
By 1956, roughly 8.8 million World War II veterans had used the education benefits including 2.2 million to attend colleges or universities and 5.6 million for some kind of training program.  Millions more took advantage of GI Bill mortgage loans.  One of those was my father, W.M. Murfin who in that very year used it to upgrade us from a slightly run down 1890 frame rental in Cheyenne, Wyoming to a new construction three bedroom brick ranch in a new subdivision out by the airport. 
Many more would continue to use the benefits for decades to come.  My 92 year old employer, a Navy veteran, never previously used his mortgage benefits but is now seriously considering doing so to buy a house in Chicago.  He would surely be among the last of his cohort to do so.
Here are some of the results of the GI Bill.
At the time it was enacted many supporters felt that the most critical component was the guaranteed one year of unemployment benefits which paid $20 weekly.  That was hardly a princely sum and difficult for a person supporting a family to get by on.  But it was a very livable payment for singles providing a modest standard of living.  But it turned out that few veterans took advantage of this than anticipated or who took advantage of education benefits.  Less than 20 % of the money set aside for the program was used.
That was because the post-war recession was not as deep or long as many had feared.  Pent up demand for automobiles, durable goods, and housing all fueled a rapid recovery and ushered in an unprecedented boom period.  Millions of women left the workforce voluntarily or involuntarily opening jobs and the huge numbers of vets who took advantage of educational benefits delayed their entry into the job market for years by which time the economy was roaring again.  
A disillusioned Vet played by Frank Sinatra paid for his carousing with his GI Bill unemployment benefits in Some Came Running with Dean Martin, a film based on an autobiographical novel by James Jones.
The biggest beneficiaries of the unemployment benefits were those who had the hardest time adjusting to civilian life including those who we now recognize suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Many of them had trouble reconnecting with family and could not establish stable relationships like the millions of vets who rushed into marriage after the war.  They were rootless.   Think of the lead character in James Jones’s novel Some Came Running who was played by Frank Sinatra in the movie.  It is never explicitly stated, but understood that the troubled Vet who returns to his home town pays for his lodgings and carousing with his unemployment benefits. 
Some Vets purposely took the year to unwind and find themselves gravitating to places like New York’s Greenwich Village, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  Among them were several who became leading figures in Beat movement and the post-war art and theater scenes.  Thus those government checks had profound cultural impact.
Before the War, most Americans who did not live in rural areas and small towns, did not live in single family homes, especially the working class and urban poor—a population that had been swollen by the depression.  Most lived in apartments, flats, and tenements.  Truly astonishing numbers, including whole families, lived in boarding houses, other rooming houses, and in residential hotels.  The GI Bill, and to some extent FHA Loans, changed that with astonishing speed.  Vets were offered low interest, zero down payment home loans from established banks backed by Federal guarantees and insurance.  Terms of the loans favored new construction over the purchase of existing housing stock, a nod at stimulating the construction industry.
The reality--Levittown, New York in 1947 and the birth of suburban sprawl and '50's car culture.
GIs and their families poured out of old central cities and into sprawling suburban development symbolized by Levittown.  Old established neighborhood were disrupted and broken up.  Blacks, more recent immigrants, and poor whites took over those areas.  And the coming of Blacks stoked white flight to the suburbs by those who had been left behind. 
The resulting sprawl also contributed to the growing auto centered culture—roads, highways, parking lots, shopping centers, drive-in everything with all of the attending pollution and other effects for good and ill.
The new suburban life-style suddenly enshrined the nuclear family—dad, stay-at-home mom, and children as the cultural norm.  Before the war many lived together in extended, multi-generational families.  Despite the relatively recent origin of this norm, contemporary conservatives and reactionaries consider it both time honored tradition and actually anointed by God even as shifting culture and a new harsh economic reality have rendered it nearly obsolete. 
But many argue it was the education benefits that had the farthest reaching consequences.  The many college graduates produced, mostly as admirers of the “Greatest Generation” are eager to point out, motivated, driven, and focused entered the job market in time to provide the engineers, scientists, and other innovators that contributed to one revolution after another in technology, transportation, communication, and productions.  On their shoulders America became the undisputed economic master of a shattered world.
Students, many of the Vets on the GI Bill, line up for registration at the University of Minnesota.
They also filled the ranks of what in retrospect might be called the Age of Middle Management in the giant corporations that came to dominate the post war era and government at all levels.  The sons of shoe makers, share croppers, and factory hands became junior executives and vice presidents.  Some went even further.  It was a white collar revolution that raised millions into the middle class and firmly set expectations of achievement for the Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and subsequent generations that followed them.
But in the Digital Age, with globalization, and the aftermath of the 2008 economic collapse most of those jobs have disappeared as surely as did those of coal miners and rust belt factory workers.  Yet the myth that a college education is an automatic ticket to the middle class and success lingers.  The grandchildren and great grandchildren of those returning Vets are now graduating from college saddled with enormous debt and dim job prospects for many.  We have entered the age of Uber drivers with master’s degrees, retail clerks and low level managers with B.A.s, and thirty year old waitresses still hustling tables at Chili’s.  Many can’t launch independent lives and society is getting used to the return of multi-generation homes as under-employed alums linger in or return to their parents’ houses.
Although the versions of the GI Bill have remained in force, veterans of subsequent conflicts did not get the same comprehensive boost as did the World War II vets.  Troops returning from Korea found that instead of their institutions receiving payment for tuition and fees, they were given a flat amount regardless of cost of their education to apply to their expanses.  That figure—about $150 a month usually failed to pay all expanses and was reduced in value over the years by education inflation which ran ahead of the general cost of living.
Rep. Gillespie "Sonny Montgomery, U.S. Army Major General, Retired, and his proudest accomplishment --the Montgomery GI Bill
In 1984 the revised Montgomery GI Bill — Active Duty (MGIB) sponsored by Rep. Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery, corrected and raised benefits but extended the time of active service required and put in place a 10 year window to use them after leaving the service.  Once again inflation ate up the increased monthly payments despite occasional boosts.  The Montgomery Bill remains the underlying law regarding these veterans’ benefits.
In 2010 Congress after much delay passed President Barak Obama’s tweak of benefits, the Post-9/11 GI Bill a/k/a G.I. Bill 2.0 which among other thing expanded the eligibility of members of the National Guard or Reserves called up for active duty—troops that the Armed Services heavily relied on in the Gulf War, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq as well as other anti-terrorist actions.  Education benefits were redefined with a new cap and there was additional minor tinkering. 
President George W. Bush opposed expansion of GI Bill benefited for fear that it would encourage soldiers to leave the service rather than doing multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  His veto was over riden.  Barack Obama secured  improved benefits in the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Under heavy pressure in Congress guarantees were written into the law for payment to private, for profit trade schools, and an explosion of iffy on-line diploma mills despite the administration’s desire to rein in the worst offenders who saddled vets with courses most never completed and/or worthless degrees and training certificates not recognized by businesses or legitimate educational institutions.  In 2012, Obama issued an Executive Order to ensure that military service members, veterans, and their families would not be aggressively targeted by sub-prime colleges.  These regulations caused the failure of heavily advertized ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges to abruptly cease operations after the Obama administration slapped them with federal sanctions.  Many more were in danger of going out of business.
President Donald Trump recently countermanded Obama’s Executive Order with one of his own that unleashed the controversial schools to resume preying on veterans and their families. Trump, of course, famously lent his name to sham school Trump University which bilked vets and others and is under criminal investigation.
Trouble with private schools date back to the beginning of the program.  Although man World War II vets received legitimate technical and trade training but many others were snagged in phony correspondence school scams.  These bad actors have been a constant plague on the program over the years routinely using clout to beat back attempts at reform.
Interestingly, a higher percentage of Vietnam Veterans—72%—used GI Bill compared to 51% of World War II vets and 43% of Korean alumni.  But a large percentage of them used the benefits at questionable trade and technical schools.

ITT was one of many for profit schools that trolled for active duty troops and veterans.  The heavily advertised school with campuses around the country and on-line programs went belly-up when its life blood was cut off for exploiting its students.
The advent of the Internet allowed on-line college programs to enter the fray alongside the traditional training schools.  Some on-line programs by recognized colleges and universities were legitimate and hailed by many as the wave of the future especially for those already in the workforce or with family responsibilities seeking re-education or career upgrades.  Unfortunately many of the for profit schools that sprang up preying on Veterans were virtually useless.
Today each of the armed services has their own regulations interpreting the terms and eligibility of GI Bill and other veterans’ benefits.  Many of those regulations, like those requiring set minimums of time continuing deployment abroad have caused many troops and vets not to get the full education benefits that they thought they were entitled to when they enlisted in the “all-volunteer” armed forces.  Many are told that they will have to re-enlist or volunteer for additional deployments in order to get what their initial recruiters promised.
Along with other cuts to Veterans’ services, a general deterioration of the Veteran’s medical care, and high rates of PSTD post-9/11 vets suffering extended unemployment and homelessness are on a sharp rise.
They can only look on what their World War II forbearers received under the original GI Bill.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Loving Judy is Not a Test of Sexual Orientation

I fell in adolescent lust for Judy Garland in her post-War Technicolor MGM musicals like Meet Me in St. Louis and never got over it.


In the 1996 flick My Fellow Americans—which by the way seems downright prescient—two former Presidents and bitter political enemies were forced to go on the lam together when they were framed for the attempted assassination of the current occupant of the Oval Office.  James Garner channeled Bill Clinton and Jack Lemon stood in for George Bush the elder.  As they tried to uncover a sinister plot against Democracy in the heart of the White House they found themselves marching in a Gay Pride Parade to ditch the FBI agents tracking them down.  Naturally they ended up in a contingent of cross-dressing Judy Garland/Dorothy Gale clones in identical gingham dresses and Ruby Slippers.  Audiences never failed to roar with laughtereveryone got the joke.
Contrary to stereotype, you don’t have to be Gay to love Judy Garland, who died at the age of only 47 on June 22, 1969.  I know because she stirred my young heterosexual loins when I discovered her classic late ‘40’s early ‘50’s MGM musicals on TV.  When I re-discovered the same films in glorious Technicolor later in life, that romance was only reinforced. 

The story of Garland’s rise on the wings of an enormous talent and painful her fall in ill health from years of draconian dieting, drugs, alcohol, and a hopelessly tragic love life are familiar. 

Pretty much Born in a Trunk, as she later sang, she was born as Francis Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the youngest child of a pair of vaudevillians who ran a local movie house with live acts between the shows.  It was 1922 and vaudeville was in its last glory days doomed by those movies and the coming of radio for entertainment.  Her parents presented Baby Gumm in a song and dance act with her sisters when she was just 2½ years old.  

The Gumm Sisters with the future Judy Garland on the left in the 1929 Vidaphone short The Big Review

The family moved to California in 1928 where her father operated another movie house and her archetypical stage mother Ethel managed the Gumm Sister’s vaudeville act and schemed to get her children, particularly her youngest, into the movies.  She managed to get them in occasional short films beginning in 1928, including a Vidaphone release in 1930 in which young Francis had her first solo

They had better luck on stage and became a headline act.  While appearing at Chicago’s Oriental Theater in 1934 comedian/Master of Ceremonies George Jessel suggested that the girls use a more attractive name.  They began performing as the Garland Sisters and Francis took the name Judy from a popular Hoagy Carmichael song. 

The act was broken up when an older sister eloped to Reno with a musician.  In 1935 her mother’s dream was fulfilled when Judy was signed to a contract at MGM, by far and away the most prestigious of all Hollywood studios.  Although studio executives recognized her talent, they were hard pressed to figure out what to do with the 13 year old prone to baby fat who was too old for cute kid roles and too young for an ingĂ©nue. 

Garland's turn in the Dear Mr. Gable scene in the MGM review Broadway Melody of 1938 enchanted the public made mad the young singer a star despite Louis B. Mayer's scorn.
Studio boss, the crusty Louis B. Mayer was notoriously contemptuous, referring to Garland as “The Hunchback.”  The studio set up a short with another teenage prospect, the soprano Deana Durbin as sort of an audition for which one to keep.  Mayer preferred Durbin, but before he made an offer, her contract was up and she was snapped up by rival Universal leaving Mayer with, “the fat one.”
 
Her singing eventually got her the attention she needed to break through.  She sang her first signature tune, Zing Went the Strings of My Heart on a radio broadcast hours after her beloved father died later in 1935.  It became a sensation.  After signing a special arrangement of You Made Me Love You for Clark Gable at a studio function in 1937, it was incorporated into a studio all-star review film, Broadway Melody of 1938.  
 
Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney grew up together on the MGM lot and teamed as teenagers and adults on 9 films beginning with Thoroughbreds Don't Cry in 1937.

Also in ’37 she was teamed for the first time with Mickey Rooney.  The pair made 9 films together, mostly let’s-get-the-gang-together-and-put-on-a-show musicals that were wildly successful.  To keep their young talent on the set for long days and to control her weight the studio pumped her up with amphetamines by day, and gave her barbiturates at night to get her to sleep.  It led to lifelong pill popping and the stringent diets adversely affected her health.  But the studio drove her relentlessly.  

In 1939—the famous best year of movies ever—Garland was cast, only when Mayer could not get Shirley Temple on loan, as Dorothy Gale in Wizard of Oz.  Her breasts were bound to hide her 16 year old budding curves and she was corseted in a blue gingham dress to make her look younger—it succeeded in making her look a little chubbier than she actually was.  But she was sensational in the movie and was awarded a special juvenile Oscar for her performance.  She was officially one of the brightest stars in MGM famous galaxy. 
Shirley Temple was the first choice and budding teenage Judy was too old for the part, but Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz became her most iconic role.

In 1940 in addition to two more juvenile films, she made her first film as an adult, an adaptation of George M. Cohan’s Little Nelly Kelly in which she appeared in dual roles as both mother and daughter.  For the next couple of years she alternated rematches with Rooney and adult roles like in For Me and My Gal opposite newcomer Gene Kelley.  That film convinced studio executives to give her the glamour build up and first adult romantic lead in Presenting Miss Lilly Mars.
 
 Meanwhile Garland’s star crossed love life was alternately thrilling her and sending her into deep depression.  A teen age affair with band leader Artie Shaw ended when he eloped with Lana Turner, deepening Garland’s deep insecurities about her looks.  She became engaged to another musician, David Rose on her 18th birthday but he was still married to comedienne Martha Raye and the studio insisted she wait to marry him until a full year after his divorce.   Both Rose and the studio encouraged her to have an abortion in 1942 so that she could continue to work.  The marriage ended in separation in 1943 and divorce a year later. 

In 1944 the studio cast her in her first big Technicolor film, Meet Me in St. Louis.  Not only did she sing three great standards in the film, but make-up man changed her look by re-shaping her eyebrows, raising her hair line, and eliminating annoying nose pads the studio had been having her wear for years.  The result was stunning and her wide set, big brown eyes and heart shaped face made her a beauty, even briefly in her own mind.  More important she fell in love with her director, the temperamental Vincent Minnelli and married him shortly after completing the film. 

The Harvey Girls was made at the peak of Garland's post-War MGM success.
It was the happiest period of Garland’s life.  Her daughter Liza Minnelli was born in 1946.  MGM followed up with other Technicolor extravaganzas, The Harvey Girls and The Pirate which rematched her with Gene Kelly.  But stress was getting to her and she suffered a break-down during the filming of The Pirate. 

Her final years at MGM were punctuated with successful films like Easter Parade with Fred Astaire and The Good Old Summertime and projects aborted by her frequent absences from the set and erratic behavior.  She was replaced by Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway, Betty Hutton in Annie Get Your Gun, and Jane Powell in Royal Wedding after she was suspended by the studio while shooting each film.  Garland was reported to have attempted suicide after the last film. 

Her final completed MGM film was Summer Stock, again with Kelly.  She was noticeably heavy during most of the film, but two months later sensationally slimmed down to film the Get Happy number which featured her in a man’s black coat and white shirt, black nylons nearly to the hip and a jaunty black fedora, which would become her signature look in her later career.
Months after completing principal shooting on Summer Stock in 1950 while bloated and heavy, Garland returned to the set slimmed down and sexy for her famous Get Happy.  She made this look the trademark of the second half of her career.

 After that 1950 film came the debacle with Royal Wedding.  Her personal world was also crumbling with the end of her marriage to Minnelli.  Her days at MGM were over and no other studio would touch her, given her troubled reputation. 

To pick up the pieces of her shattered career she hired agent Sid Luft who decided to put her back on a live stage, where she had seldom performed since her days in the sister act.  He arranged a four month tour of the British Isles in 1951which included a four week sold out engagement at the prestigious London Palladium.  She received rave reviews and, according to the veteran manager of the Palladium, the loudest ovation he ever heard. 

In October she re-opened the refurbished Palace Theater on Broadway with in a vaudeville style show.  It ran for 16 weeks and was described as, “one of the greatest personal triumphs in show business history.” She received a special Tony Award the program. 

A Star is Born with James Mason in 1954 was Garland's comeback roll, a critical and popular hit that lost money largely due to production delays she caused.
In 1952 Garland married her manager and gave birth to their daughter Lorna Luft.  On the strength of her stage triumphs Garland and Luft formed a production company and made a deal with Warner Bros. to finance a comeback film, a re-make of the 1937 show biz tear jerker A Star is Born.  James Mason was cast as the washed up movie actor opposite Garland’s rising star.  After initially participating enthusiastically, as the production wore on her old insecurities surfaced and she returned to her pattern of missing shooting while pleading illness.  The delay cost Warner Bros. a lot of money and enraged studio boss Jack Warner, who refused to work with her again.  Despite the struggles in production, the movie was a critical and popular hit, although the production delays caused the film to actually lose money, putting Garland in financial peril. 

She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress and was so expected to win that a television crew was dispatched to her home, where she was recovering from the birth of her son Joseph.  But Grace Kelly unexpectedly won for The Country Girl in what Groucho Marx wrote was, “the biggest robbery since Brinks.”
 
It would be seven years before Garland returned to the screen in a stark dramatic role in Judgment at Nuremburg for which she was nominated again for an Academy Award, this time as Best Supporting Actress. 

Between those two films Garland headlined highly successful TV specials, including CBS’s first big color broadcast in 1956.  But she lost a $300,000 a year contract with the network for more specials when she and Luft demanded more control over content and format. 

She became the highest paid star to headline a Las Vegas show, and returned to the Palace for another run as well as touring and guesting on TV. 

In 1959 she nearly died of acute hepatitis and was told that she would never perform again.  After months of agonizing treatment and recovery she staged yet another wildly successful comeback at the Palladium and was so taken by the adulation of British fans that she announced she would move to London. 

The one night performance at Carnagie Hall in 1961 was called "the greatest night in show business history" and the album was a huge and perennial  hit.
On April 26, 1961 Garland starred in a Carnegie Hall concert that was captured on a two-disc LP album.  Her triumphant performance was described, “the greatest night in show business history.”  The album was Number 1 on the Billboard charts for 13 weeks and stayed on the charts for 95 weeks.  It won four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year and Best Female Vocal of the Year.  The album is a perennial seller and has never gone out of issue. 

The success of this concert and of her turn in Judgment at Nuremberg several doors opened for her.  She made three more films.  She voiced a cat in the animated film Gay Puree featuring, at her suggestion, songs by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, the team behind the music for The Wizard of Oz.  She made another dramatic film with Burt Lancaster, A Child is Waiting about the treatment of mentally handicapped children in a state hospital.  Although she got good notices, the film was a box office failure.  Her final film, made in England in 1963 was I Could Go On Singing, a turgid soap opera with Dirk Bogarde in which she played a troubled superstar much like herself.  The film was enlivened by several concert scenes. 

Meanwhile as her marriage to Luft deteriorated amid charges of physical and financial abuse, a new agent patched up Garland’s relationship with CBS, which signed her to a new deal.  Her first special featured Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and aired in 1962.  It was such a spectacular success that the network offered her an astonishing $24 million dollar contract, the fattest in history, to undertake a weekly series. 

Garland had long maintained that she did not want to be tied down to a weekly series, but she was deeply in debt, owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the IRS and was piling up legal bills fighting with Luft over custody of her children.  After two more successful specials, the Judy Garland Show premiered in September 1963.  It was a critical and moderate popular success showcasing Judy and featuring many big name guest stars.  But CBS scheduled it for Sunday nights opposite NBC’s juggernaught Bonanza.  With the cost of the star’s contract, the show could not make money and was canceled, emotionally and financially devastating Garland. 

She returned to the stage, including another foray at her favorite venue, the Palladium this time co-starring with her 18 year old daughter Liza.  The show was filmed for a successful British television special.  A 1964 tour of Australia was marred by a serious bout of pleurisy and bad press for a delayed concert in Melbourne.  But Garland fell for her Australian promoter and claimed to have married him secretly on a freighter off of Hong Kong but she was still legally married to Luft.  The couple officially wed in November of 1965. 

In 1967 she was offered a role based on her in an adaptation of Jacqueline Suzan’s pot boiler Roman a clef novel Valley of the Dolls but her real life dependency on prescription pills disrupted production again and she was replaced by Susan Hayward.  She returned to the Palace for a 16 week engagement featuring both of her daughters the same year. 

Her health and marriage were both deteriorating.  She divorced Heron and married for a fifth and last time to Mickey Deans a sleazy discothèque manager who had provided her with prescription drugs.  Her 1969 marriage in March occurred the same month as her last concert in Copenhagen. 

On June 22 Deans found her dead in their London apartment.  The British coroner discounted suicide, but found that she died of prolonged over-exposure to the pain killer Seconal.  Her London physician reported that she would have had only months to live anyway due to advanced cirrhosis of the liver.  
Garland's children, Joey Luft, Liza Minnelli, and Lorna  Luft arrive at Judy's funeral in New York.


Twenty thousand people lined up to view her body at a prominent New York funeral home.  Garland’s tragic life and death have undoubtedly contributed to her becoming a cult figure in American popular culture.  But the glorious record of her films transcends pity and camp.